Five minutes in, and we're watching Andy Murray leading some freshly-hatched chicks towards a large hen. Ah, Virtua Tennis: forever the giggling lunatic of the sports game circuit.
Arcade mode lets you slip into the shoes of real-life stars, but it's the World Tour mode that's worth your time. Turning the globe into a giant board game, you use numbered movement tokens instead of a dice roll to travel around each continent.
Landing on one square might see you playing one of the title's daft mini-games, whereas another might see you taking part in a photoshoot for a sporting magazine - increasing your fame, but using up more of your time in the process.
Whether you're taking part in a tournament or working on your public image, everything you do costs you stamina. Let this slip too low, and your performance on the court will suffer.
On the other hand, spend too long lounging around in hotels instead of raising your profile, and you'll miss out on the luxury of automatic qualification, having to play an extra series of matches just to earn your placement in the bigger competitions. Rush through a season and you'll miss the benefits, but take too long and you might end up missing the final tournament entirely.
Considering how badly the genre tends to struggle with a sense of physical progression, Virtua Tennis 4 puts the competition to shame with its odd board game formula. The skills that you use the most will level up faster, adding another level of progression into the mix.
As a single-player experience it's hugely compelling - and even as multiplayer party game, its simple enough to entertain even the most idiotic or inebriated of pals. The only, and very, disappointing element is the much-touted Kinect support. This is limited to standalone Exhibition matches (played solo or with a similarly flailing partner) and a single mini-game, and feels imprecise, inconsistent and barely enjoyable.
It's an unexpected blight on what is otherwise a simple, exciting and utterly addictive game. Even if you're only a casual fan of the genre, it's all just incredibly fun stuff.
Kinect aside, it's genuinely smashing
- World Tour mode is brilliant
- Hilariously silly mini-games
- Unexpectedly strategic
- Matches get genuinely intense
- Kinect bits are rubbish